Workshops - The Architecture of Light

The Architecture of Light

   Schaller Painting

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Thomas Schaller Statement

“Try not to paint the scenes and objects in front of you. But rather, try to paint the light that illuminates and gives them identity.”

 This little bit of advice is what I always tell my classes (and myself) as a way to begin to redefine – as painters – what it is we choose to paint, and moreover, how we choose to paint it.  I don’t mean this to be at all as cryptic as it may sound.  What I mean is - and unique to the medium of watercolor – that we are working in a “subtractive” way.  In a transparent medium, the only real white, and therefore the only real light, comes from the plain white surface of the paper itself.  So any tone, any value or color we apply, subtracts from the total amount of light that is available to us. Composing and protecting the light in a watercolor becomes of critical importance. Because once it is gone, it is lost forever. 

I see watercolor as a natural extension of the act of drawing.  Except that in watercolor, we “draw” not with a line, but with shapes: shapes of value, of  tone and color, of light.  So as we paint, we literally carve away at that total amount of light shining from the pure white of the paper.  And so, if we can begin to see ourselves as “painting with light”, with its structures and its forms, rather than with the structure and forms of our subject matter, we can begin to fundamentally change how we see and feel about the world around us. 

 As an architect, I am naturally drawn to the man-made objects that populate our landscapes and cities.  But I have long understood that it is the ever-changing nature of light, the shifting shades and shadows, that give those objects their life and meaning.  I have also long acknowledged that it is the two-dimensional drawn and painted images of these buildings and urban landscapes that is my real passion. Moreover, I am inspired by what I like to think of as the dialog between the “architecture of man” and the “architecture of nature”. One could not exist without the other,  and it is in this tension that I find the  artistic questions that I like my paintings to address.  

Without the light that slides across it’s beautiful shapes and surfaces, reflects from it’s bright piazzas and canals, gently animates its interiors, and forms in beautiful pools of shadow, the phenomenon that is Venice, Italy for example, would not have the effect upon us that it does.  But equally, the diffuse atmospherics of fog, shifting clouds, dramatic sunrises and sunsets, are as central to the very identity of that place as is any beautiful building, piazza, or statue. 

As painters, I sincerely believe that we must do more than just faithfully illustrate the things we see. For our work to begin to attain the status of art, we need to try to tell the story of our subjects. For me, it is in the structure of light – in all it’s subtleties and mystery, as well as in its bright dramatics – that those stories can begin to unfold.

Non Members Fee: $640.00 Members Fee: $600.00